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The Five Rules of Cloud Computing Litigation

Just like all the technology before it as well as after it, “Cloud Computing” is not a silver bullet, nor a universal solution

“Once you get into Cloud Computing and past the glossy euphemisms, you better watch out for the real rocks in the road,” observes James Carlini.

Cloud computing is the major approach that most organizations should be adapting for their applications in this new era of mobile computing.” You have all read the ads and the articles that hype it, along with all the overnight experts that tout how they know that Cloud Computing is the universal solution for today’s and tomorrow’s organizations. Now, let’s get back on the ground and understand what some of the real potholes and obstacles are on the road to a more efficient and effective IT infrastructure.

Rules of the Road, Rules of the Clouds
There are many “experts” out there touting all the positive aspects to Cloud Computing but like anything else, there are issues and concerns to address.

First, no technology runs by itself. If you think Cloud Computing and shared resources don’t need support and administration on YOUR side of the cloud, you are sadly mistaken.

Rule Number One: Make sure you have the proper oversight on this service as well as its vendor(s) upfront.

Second, a good contract for services should define the roles and responsibilities on both sides. This follows Rule Number One. You should know what the service vendor provides and what the actions are that your organization needs to perform. Read the fine print as you will find it still needs you to have some hands-on management.

Don’t rely on the vendor to take care of everything. If the vendor is smart, the contract is very well-defined and does not leave anything for interpretation later down the road.

Rule Number Two: Make sure your contract is well defined as to roles and responsibilities. By doing this, you ensure what you need to do is crystal clear and this actually applies to (and protects) both parties.

Third, make sure you have a complete diagram of the network configuration that has been developed for you. This is very critical and in most cases when problems arise, I ask for the network configuration map that shows the total configuration of the enterprise. At best, there is nothing up-to-date and at worst, which is mostly the case, there is nothing to review.

How can you possibly manage something when you don’t even have a diagram to review what you have in place? How do you know the vendor is delivering on what they have promised? How do you modify it, when you need to add or subtract people? I could go on and on with this because it is so important and yet so overlooked.

When I see there is no network configuration map, I immediately know there are real problems with this organization and their whole infrastructure, let alone their Cloud Computing applications.

Rule Number Three: Make sure you have an up-to-date network configuration map that someone can refer to when looking at the current environment as well as later when you are going to modify it.

Fourth, periodic reviews of the service and the performance of the vendor are critical. You get what you pay for. Just as there are no such things as a $5,000 new Rolls-Royce, there are no such things as a great mission-critical application for your company that is only $49.95 a month.

Rule Number Four: Remember that YOU manage the vendors, the vendors don’t manage you.

Fifth, don’t rely on traditional advisors (lawyers and accountants) to give you the insights you need to develop cloud computing applications. You are looking at technology for your organization, talk to a technologist, not a lawyer or an accountant.

Rule Number Five: You don’t get Superman by paying Jimmy Olson wages. Make sure you get the people and skills sets you need to support both the planning and the implementation of the infrastructure.

Learn from Experience or Get Burned by Experience
The latest litigation I am working on focuses on the lack of the user getting involved in taking responsibility to manage their system and now want to litigate against the provider because of their internal failure to do what was outlined in the contract that they signed.

Litigation costs money, even if you are in the right. With all the people hyping cloud computing, you better have the right advisor to give you an honest opinion on whether or not you’re getting into a good deal before you sign the contract.

•   •   •

Copyright © 2012 - James Carlini - All rights reserved.

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at

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